What component is first?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by MikeUp, Sep 30, 2005.

  1. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    So I'm going to be assembling a home theater, beginning with the audio components, over the next few weeks. Needless to say, all the considerations are overwhelming at first.

    I know that the receiver will be the heart of the system and the most important component. But I'm not sure if I should purchase it first, and then choose speakers that work well with it and the room. Or do I choose speakers that are best suited to the small room that will be their home, and then choose the receiver to match the speakers? I keep reading things about how some receivers work well with "warm" speakers and other "bright" speakers.

    Or is all this irrelevant for someone with admittedly unsophisticated, neophyte ears? Should I just make sure I get the best receiver for me and proceed from there?
     
  2. chuckg

    chuckg Supporting Actor

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    I'll bite. You said "unsophisticated ears" so I am certain I won't offend you!

    I wouldn't worry too much about matching a receiver to a set of speakers. The characterization of "bright" and "warm" are pretty subtle, really. If it's too shrill for you, you can just turn down the treble a bit.

    I always tell people to decide how much they want to spend, then spend that amount. If you do as well as possible at your price point, then you can sit back and be happy with it, and ignore anybody that tells you that their super-expensive system is better.

    After setting a budget, spend as much of it as you can on the speakers. I don't mean get expensive speakers, I mean get real good speakers that match each other.

    Then use what you've got left for a receiver. Look for open-box specials, if your budget is small. Get the features you will actually use, not the glitzy features. Get the highest power output you can.

    A dollar spent on speakers is worth ten or more dollars in receiver. My speakers altogether were about $1500 and the receiver was $400. Everything I bought was on sale, or open box, and I'm quite happy with it.

    And my ears are only slightly sophisticated from 18 years in the entertainment industry.
     
  3. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    Thanks! And all very good advice. I guess I should head to the speaker threads and start poking around.

    And no need to worry about offending me. I'm a huge music fan, but I've never had a system capable of teaching me the subtleties. I just know what I like. Hopefully, this first foray into HT won't set me on the road to hi-fi addiction. I can hardly afford another expensive vice. [​IMG]
     
  4. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i agree with chuck. personally, i can't tell the difference in sound from any given receiver, but i can *definitely* tell a difference for any two speakers. i really feel that speakers will have more effect on sound then any other piece of gear in your stack.

    i say put most of your emphasis on speakers ... then find yourself a decent receiver.
     
  5. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    Roger that.

    Going shopping over the course of 3 or 4 days next week. Wish me luck! Gonna head over the Speaker forum and poke around. I figure with a $1000-1200 budget total, I should put about $600-700 towards the speakers. That sound about right? Will I have enough left over for a 5.1 receiver worthy of my new speakers? (No need for 6.1 or 7.1 in New York-sized apartments. No room behind the couch.)
     
  6. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    yeah, if you drop about 700 on the speakers, that'll leave you about 500 for the receiver. i'm positive you can get a very decent receiver for that ... there's lots of good ones in that range.

    also, there's another way to think of this. you could build your system slowly. get the main speakers first, then add a center, then the rears, then the sub ... or whatever order you prefer. no reason to buy all the speakers at once.

    oh yeah, take a close look at paradigm speakers ... they're generally considered some of the best performing speakers for the money.
     
  7. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    Well, I've recently come into a small chunk of change. If I don't spend it now on the whole rig, I'll just spend it on something else and it'll be gone. [​IMG]

    Impulse control is not my strong suit, which is one reason I'm trying to be so thorough on this purchase.

    And thanks for the tip on Paradigm. They hadn't hit my radar yet.
     
  8. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Hi Mike.

    I tend to agree with everything said to this point.

    But I have to ask - will this system be used for Home Theater or for Music?

    You do want speakers that sound good to you, but ... you can get away with less accurate (= less expensive) speakers for a Home Theater system than for a Music system.

    People with fairly expensive systems have been astounded when they help a friend/relative setup a set of less-expensive monitor style speakers. When setup and calibrated it sounds really really good. Then they go home to their $20,000 systems and it does sound better, but not a factor of 10 better.

    So here is my advice:


    For a Music system: take your favorite CD's and audition speakers and find the ones that sound the best to you. Some good names, but better priced are Paradigm, Energy, Klipsch, etc.

    The thing about speakers is they are like brands of Ice Cream or brands of beer. I will like different ones than the next guy or you. This is why you should never ask "Which of these $500 speakers is the best?" You have to go listen to each with music you like and decide for yourself.

    Oh, take a few favorite CD's with you (not MP3's) and use these for speaker auditions. You will be able to tell that some speakers wont sound right to your ears with music you are familar with.

    Receiver

    I am a Yamaha fan so that would be my first choice. Kenwood is trying to come-back from obscurity so they have some good recievers for a budget price. I would also be happy to have a Dennon in my rack. The other brands like Sony, JVC, Pioneer, Harmon Kardon have some models that are good, but they also push a lot of junk so I tend to avoid them.

    Beware of Volume

    When listening to things for 30 seconds, people always are impressed by volume. Even people who review stereo equipment have been fooled into giving speakers or amps a better review than a side-by-side unit just because the volume is a bit louder on one.

    Dont be fooled by this. Listen at the salesmans level, then turn things down and listen some more. You are not trying to be impressed by the sonic-bombardment. Listen for details you know should be on your CD's or movies. Some speakers will hide some of this detail, and others will bring out sounds you never knew existed.

    CD music will show you more about a speaker than a movie soundtrack. But if you want to know, one of my favorite demo DVD's to take for speaker auditions is Star Trek:First Contact. The second chapter is a borg battle scene that has male and female voices, music and sound effects. All the different things you want in a demo.

    Hope this helps.
     
  9. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    Great stuff! Thanks a bunch.

    You've hit on another dilemma of mine. This system is going to have to do double duty. I watch a ton of movies, but this is also going to handle most of my music listening, which is also substantial. So I want my cake and to eat it too.

    Now, when listening to music, I'll be wandering around our small Brooklyn pad, so precision is not as imperative as when I'm firmly seated in the sweet spot on my couch for a movie. I'll rarely be sitting in that position to listen to music. Don't know if that makes any difference.

    As a preliminary step, I decided to find a handful of receivers that meet my needs (even exceed them a bit, to leave room to grow), so I could get a price range. That'll give me a firmer idea of what will be left for the all-important speakers.

    Denon AVR-1906
    Yamaha HTR-5840
    Onkyo TX-SR701 or TX-LR552

    The Yamaha and the two Onkyos would leave me the $650-$850 for speakers. The Denon is more expensive and I'd probably only have about $400-500 for speakers, but I certainly read a lot of raves about Denon.

    I've also realized that all of these choices give me
     
  10. MikeUp

    MikeUp Agent

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    Oops. I guess that last part should've gone in the Hardware forum.
     
  11. Dick Knisely

    Dick Knisely Second Unit

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    Mike -- I've got an Onkyo receiver in the living room for music and a Denon in the family room for HT. Neither are those models but they're not too distant predecessors. Both are wonderful. I've done side-by-side listening tests and I can't tell any significant difference for music. As others have said, the receiver isn't what you're ears are hearing, its the speakers and having more available for the speakers would be a good thing. Unless there are features on the Denon you specifically want then I'd take the Onkyo and spend the extra on the speakers.

    Not a pro and your mileage may vary! [​IMG]
     
  12. joseph westcott

    joseph westcott Second Unit

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    I would strongly suggest spending a greater percentage of your budget on your speakers.

    Receivers come and go as technology changes but most people will keep their speakers for a very long time.

    I would suggest a 4 or 5 to 1 budget ratio with the lion share going to your speakers.
     
  13. John S

    John S Producer

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    You can also just get 2 pair of speakers for now, and still have very good surround performance. So many way s to go, a lot to think about here.
     

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